Peter Greenaway – The Pillow Book (1996)

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Review
Nagiko’s father was a calligrapher, and when she was a little girl he would write his birthday greetings on her face. Her mother would read aloud from a 1,000-year-old manuscript, (italics) The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, (unital) which dealt among other things with the arts of love. Because children invest their birthdays with enormous importance, it’s no wonder that when Nagiko grows up she finds a powerful link between calligraphy, human flesh, poetry, and sexuality.

Peter Greenaway, born in Australia, long working in England, is not so far from Nagiko himself. His films also work by combining images, words, quotations and sexual situations. He uses the screen as Nagiko uses flesh, finding an erotic charge not just in the words, but in the surface they are written on, His new film “The Pillow Book,” starring Vivian Wu (from “The Last Emperor”), is a seductive and elegant story that combines a millennium of Japanese art and fetishes with the story of a neurotic modern woman who tells a lover: “Treat me like the pages of a book.” Early in Nagiko’s life, she sees something she was not intended to see: Her father’s publisher (Yoshi Oida), forcing her father (Ken Ogata) to have sex as the price of getting a book published. On another occasion, when she is 6 or 7, she is introduced to the publisher’s 10-year-old nephew, and told this will be her future husband. These events set up fundamental tensions in her life, and as an adult, unhappily married to the publisher’s nephew, she begins keeping her own pillow book. The nephew (Ken Mitsuishi) is a shallow dolt, who finds her book and in a jealous rage burns her papers and then their house. Continue reading

Peter Greenaway – Goltzius and the Pelican Company (2012)

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Set in the year 1590, the story follows Hendrick Goltzius (Ramsey Nasr) and his crew of writers, workers and performers as they arrive in Colmar at the palace of a rich and powerful margrave (Abraham), who the engraver hopes will finance a printing press he can use to publish illustrated versions of the Old Testament and the works of Ovid. In order to seal the deal, Goltzius needs to titillate the nobleman and his court with live renditions of what he refers to as the ?Six Sexual Taboos,? beginning with Adam and Eve?s original sin and covering such transgressions as incest (via the Genesis passages on Lot and his daughters), prostitution (through the tale of Samson and Delilah) and necrophilia (in the story of St. John the Baptiste and Salome). Continue reading

Peter Greenaway – Rembrandt’s J’accuse (2008)

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Quote:
Believe the tale and not the teller., 10 July 2009

Author: The_Black_Rider from New Jersey

If Peter Greenaway presented his conspiracy theory to Rembrandt, the painter would probably laugh in the filmmaker’s face. Luckily art is subjective, and as long as you can make a decent enough case for an interpretation, it is legitimate. But Greenaway’s new film isn’t really about the conspiracy anyway; it’s about the image.

Greenaway famously believes cinema is an impoverished art form because it relies more on the text than on the image. “Just because you have eyes doesn’t mean you can see,” he says. He has been exploring this concept since the days of The Draughtsman’s Contract in which an artist naively uncovered an incitement to murder in his sketches. Here, Greenaway goes through every detail in Rembrandt’s painting and analyzes it. Why is Banning Cocq holding out his naked left hand? Where is the group portrait meant to take place? Who is hiding at the back? Didn’t we see all this in Nightwatching? Sort of. After a long stretch of commercial and artistic failures, Greenaway was clearly trying to reach out to the art-house crowds once again by mixing his exercise in art theory with the melodrama of Rembrandt’s love life. The problem is that Nightwatching is more of the latter than the former, and if there’s one thing Greenaway doesn’t do, it’s emotion. Rembrandt’s J’Accuse is indeed a rehash of the concepts of Nightwatching but the contrived story stripped away. Continue reading